The Education Trust report you cite unfairly criticizes the career education sector and devalues the education and commitment of its 3.2 million students. Comparing private-sector colleges and universities to other types of institutions does not consider the larger percentages of high-risk students we serve.I recently irked a company that operates for-profit charter schools by suggesting,
Stop and think about that for a minute. If you're wealthy, your kids don't go to the University of Phoenix, and your kids certainly won't be attending the "charter school" equivalent of the University of Phoenix. It's quaint to pretend that if only corporations are permitted to pull profits out of the per-student fees allocated to charters we'll suddenly have thousands of schools across the country offering rich curricula and pedagogical choices. But if you look at the for-profit college industry you can see what you actually get - bottom feeders. No kidding, the advocates of that system are encouraging people to ignore test scores.But here's the thing: if privatizing education is supposed to be a miracle cure for K-12 education, why is "our students are harder to teach" supposed to be an acceptable excuse for the performance of for-profit institutions of higher education? Their students want to go to school and, either with cash or student loan money, are paying for the privilege - you can assume some degree of motivation. Why is it only appropriate to blame schools and teachers for poor outcomes, and insist that the composition of the student body should be irrelevant, when they're part of the public sector?
Also, let's be honest - we're largely talking about diploma mills that churn out degrees that few believe hold any real value, or encourage students to pursue certification for jobs that traditionally have not required any formal education beyond high school, where the same certification can be achieved for a lot less money through a community college, or both. And where the certification obtained may not even be valued by employers.
The author's best attempt at a defense of the Association's members is,
At least the Education Trust concedes that graduation rates at two-year career colleges are much higher than those of community colleges.Except that "concession" is footnoted,
Caution should be used when comparing graduation rates at for-profits and public community colleges because of differences in the length of academic programs. See Christopher M. Mullins, “Just How Similar? Community Colleges and the For-Profit Sector,” American Association of Community Colleges, AACC Policy Brief 2010-04PBL, November 2010.Notably,
About 89% of students at 2-year for-profit, 86% at less-than-2-year for-profit, and 73% at 4-year for-profit institutions enroll full time, compared with about 40% of students at community colleges. This fundamental difference in enrollment intensity, in addition to the many short-term programs offered at for-profit institutions, substantially increases for-profits’ completion rates.If somebody is going to drop out of college, doing so as a part-time community college student would be far less of an economic detriment than doing so as a full-time private college student; I thought that was one of the reasons for community college - to let people supplement their skills without worrying about whether or not they might get a degree, and to let others see if they have the interest or aptitude to pursue a college degree without necessarily quitting their day job or making a large financial commitment.
When transfer rates are included in graduation rate analyses, community colleges and 2-year for-profit institutions have completion rates of 40% and 61%, respectively.
If for-profits become big players in the charter school world, displacing public schools in the inner cities, how much doubt do you have that once they're established we'll hear the same complaint offered in the defense of private colleges: "Our performance issues aren't our fault - our students are hard to teach."